Traditionally held during the penultimate week of the spring semester in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion, the Academic Conference is a multi-disciplinary exhibition of students’ research, creative work and accomplishments. Students present, in oral or poster form, on their senior thesis research, significant class projects, service-learning activities, internships and study abroad experiences. Visual arts students display paintings and sculptures, while students and faculty also organize sessions of musical performances and poetry readings.
Dr. Peter Smyntek, assistant professor of environmental science, and Dr. Kayla Jachimowski, assistant professor of criminology, law and society, are co-chairs of the Academic Conference committee. In addition to showcasing the hard work and accomplishments of SVC students, they feel that the virtual Academic Conference has also enabled students to remain connected to the College - and one another - during an unparalleled time of uncertainty.
“While we can’t speak for the students and faculty,” said Smyntek, “based on the presentations that we have seen and abstracts that we’ve read, it seems that the conference has helped, even if only a little bit, to restore some semblance of continuity or familiarity to what has been a strange and trying time. It might have helped some students and faculty reflect on what they have in the SVC community. For example, one student noted at the end of his abstract that his experience at Saint Vincent helped to shape him as an individual and prepare him for further academic success, and that he has ‘enjoyed his years at Saint Vincent and will always be a Bearcat!’ At the end of his video presentation, another student stated that ‘I miss all of you at Saint Vincent. I hope you’re all doing well. Take care.’ We think the Academic Conference is a reminder of the connections we have between the many different groups and areas that make up SVC.”
Smyntek said that the students’ response to the new format has been positive. Over the first two weeks of collecting submissions, more than 20 different departments, programs and courses had been represented, while he estimates that the work of more than 150 students will be submitted by the May 1 deadline.
“Students and faculty do appreciate the opportunity to share the work that they have completed with others,” he said. “While the means of doing this are quite different from the normal, in-person SVC Academic Conference, students seem to view this as an opportunity to connect with each other and faculty members, albeit virtually. Students have worked hard to finish their projects under these unusual circumstances and faculty have facilitated the collection, organization and posting of the presentations.”
Traditionally, the Academic Conference draws hundreds of visitors to a bustling Dupré Center each year, with poster displays, art demonstrations and oral presentations taking place non-stop over a period of four-plus hours. While this year’s version might not have this unique, in-person dynamic, Smyntek feels that shifting to the online format does have its benefits.
“We think that the largest benefit is the opportunity to explore more of the presentations at your own pace,” he said. “For the live conference, even though it lasts roughly four-and-a-half hours, there are still limits on the number of posters you can visit and oral presentations you can hear. The online Academic Conference provides an opportunity to explore a wider range of student work than a conference attendee would otherwise be able to see. In addition, students can share their work with family and friends who might not be able to attend a live version of the conference.”
Smyntek and Jachimowski are joined on the Academic Conference committee by Dr. Derek Breid, assistant professor of engineering sciences; Dr. Sarah Dumnich, assistant professor of mathematics; Dr. Devin Fava, associate professor of psychology; Dr. Tim Kelly, professor of history; Dr. Terrance Smith, assistant professor of management; and Olivia Scott, senior chemistry major from Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.
“On behalf of the Academic Conference Committee,” said Jachimowski, “we would like to thank everyone – students, faculty, families and friends – for attending SVC’s 17th annual – and first virtual – Academic Conference. The students continue to work extremely hard despite being away from campus and we are happy we could provide an outlet for them to demonstrate that.”
The submitted work of students will be posted onto the Academic Conference web page through May 1. The page will be available permanently on the Saint Vincent College website.